Saturday, 17 November 2007

I'm one of the invited guests at the San Diego comic con in 2008. We hope to release The Amazing Remarkable Mr. Leotard at the event. We're still doing the final clean up on the book and arriving at a satisfactory cover. I personally was happy with the one before the one before the one we're on now.
I should have said this in my glossary the other day:

Sequential art: Saying that "all sequential art is comics" is like saying the world is a suburb of Brooklyn; and saying it with a Brooklyn accent.

Weekly gibberish dept.
pair these:
review: "The Fate of the Artist isn’t exactly autobiography... and it’s also not a graphic novel."

"Those graphic novelists are an argumentative lot. They can't agree what their books should be called. According to Eddie Campbell...

take that!
(That's another marginal drawing from yesterday's In Praise of Folly)
And in case you think we've been getting too hafultin' here at campbell.blogspot:

cash advance
(via Comics Comics, who have a College post-grad reading level)

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Friday, 16 November 2007

In Praise of Folly

W hen the From Hell movie became a reality I treated myself to a couple of rare books. One is a facsimile of the Encomium Moriae (In Praise of Folly) of Erasmus of Rotterdam, a limited edition of 750 copies made in 1931 (mine is 546). It is of course a reproduction of the copy of the 1515 edition preserved in Basel in which the 18 year old Hans Holbein, later royal portrait painter to Henry VIII, was put to work by his scool master in filling the margins with tiny facetious drawings. The original text is a great work of humour, though I wouldn't recommend it to dim folks who imagine that humour must make the effort to come to them rather than the other way around, and can be found in translation (from the Latin) around the net. This one is perhaps a little too American in its phraseology, "I don't think much of those wiseacres..." but there are others.

It starts off with a satirical learned encomium after the manner of the Greek satirist Lucian, whose work Erasmus and Sir Thomas More had recently translated into Latin, a piece of virtuoso foolery; it then takes a darker tone in a series of orations, as Folly praises self-deception and madness and moves to a satirical examination of pious but superstitious abuses of Catholic doctrine and corrupt practices in parts of the Roman Catholic Church--to which Erasmus was ever faithful--and the folly of pedants (including Erasmus himself)...(wikipedia)
In Victorian times there was an edition of the book for which woodcuts were made after the Holbein marginals, but these have always looked ugly to my eyes. here are a couple of scans from the facsimile:
Folly mounts the pulpit.

In my favourite illustration from the book, his guy has been distracted by a pretty lady and steps in an old woman vendor's basket of bread loaves:

(note. step carefully. Wikipedia wrongly attributes the marginal illustrations to Holbein the Elder instead of the Younger)

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Thursday, 15 November 2007

Note that the Page 45 Posy Simmonds signing is on December 9. the way I announced this earlier may have been a little confusing.

Jeet Her discusses David Michaelis’s Schulz and Peanuts at length:
For many of us, it was the first work of art we encountered that spoke to our inner selves, our fears and trepidations. Even if we stopped reading the strip after a while, it always retained a spot in our memory, a small clearing of remembered warmth and fellowship. So if someone else describes Schulz in a manner that clashes with your own private sense of him, the urge is to struggle, resist, and talk back.

Santa 'ho ho ho' ban bemuses world
Thursday Nov 15 -People around the world are bewildered that Australian Santas have been told not to say "ho ho ho". News of an Aussie recruitment firm replacing "ho ho ho" with "ha ha ha" has travelled fast, with people in New Zealand, the UK and the US amazed at the "extreme" political correctness.


Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Not a week goes by without me reading somebody paraphrasing my blatherings and getting it all wrong. Last week I read:
I'm not sure if I agree with Eddie Campbell's assertion that we should consider illustration art to be a type of comics (or graphic novel or whatever you want to call the medium).
I can't even unravel that back to what I conceivably could have written.

This week it's this:
"Eddie Campbell voices in on the not-so-contentious debate about what to call graphic fiction. Is it a genre? A format? In addition to a very generalized journalist bashing (seriously, there are a few of us who aren’t nitwits!) Campbell sides with form. Personally, I just call it a medium. Seems simple enough."
Since I reject the notion that there is a great big shapeless field of activity that can all be gathered under the one name (here 'graphic fiction', a term I have never once used) then I could hardly have said or meant that, could I?

I always choose my words and cut my phrases carefully. I guess most people just don't READ with a similar care.

Anyone who HAS been reading with care will know that I have no interest in naming anybody's medium and I just stand on the sidelines and illuminate assorted moments of verbal befuddlement, just for the sport of it, and also I suppose in some vague hope that those who write nonsense will start to think more clearly.

nevertheless if you insist on paraphrasing me, a glossary:

comics: Since McCloud defined this term as being exactly equivalent to 'sequential art' through all of time, it behooves anybody who disagrees, such as I do, to stop using the term.

sequential art: Not all 'comics' is sequential art and not all sequential art is 'comics'. Saying that "all sequential art is comics" is like saying the world is a suburb of Brooklyn; and saying it with a Brooklyn accent. (update 17 nov)

comic book: One of the useful words, because everybody knows what it means. American style comic books. They know what it looks like and can point to industry sales statistics. Comic books are clearly objects that exist in time and space. Since the things that happen in comic books follow a set of rules and involve activities that don't happen elsewhere, one can use the term to indicate a genre of popular fiction. Comic books can be formatted in different ways, thus a 200 page comic book is still a comic book. But there's a lot of stuff that doesn't fit here. e.g. Posy Simmonds, Maus, Shaun Tan's the Arrival to name but three just to establish the picture. When I say 'comic book,' i'm not thinking about them (or myself most of the time, though i ocasionally moonlight in comicbookland).

genre: "A genre is a loose set of criteria for a category of composition. Genres are formed by sets of conventions, and many works cross into multiple genres by way of borrowing and recombining these conventions. The scope of the word "genre" is sometimes confined to art and culture, particularly literature, but it has a long history in rhetoric as well. In genre studies the concept of genre is not compared to originality. Rather, all works are recognized as either reflecting on or participating in the conventions of genre."

comic book culture: that body of knowledge applicable to the collecting of comic books and other artefacts of the cuture surrounding the subject, which ordinary people don't possess and have no interest in possessing. eg comic book culture includes but is certainly not limited to: knowing what an inker does, why an issue of Spiderman drawn by McFarlane is worth more than one drawn by Mooney, that a figurine is not a doll, and being able to make an educated guess as to when precisely 'the golden age' ended. (some commenters have understood me to imply a juvenile aspect to 'comic book culture', which has never been so).

Cartoons, newpaper: The newpapers include and have included an array of different types of cartoon, including editorial cartoon, strip cartoon, panel cartoon, etc. These form a completely different medium from the comic books, even when sequential pictures are involved (you can disagree with this, but I am not the only one to say it, so while disagreeing you can acknowlege a contrary school of thought, as I have just done).

gag cartoon; The one-liners in the new Yorker etc.

manga: A Japanese word used long before it came specifically to mean comic strips or books in that country. Now it means Japanese style comic books whatever the country, i.e. a style.

Bande-dessinnee: It's French. so, whatever they say. But it's always amusing to see them mystified by our insane semantic confusions.

caricature: the art of mocking by drawing a person's likeness. This was invented in the 1500s but one can retroactively see the same thing in cultures with a strong tradition of portraiture such as ancient Rome. However, it's misleading to use the term in relation to the Bayeux tapestry (where personages are only emblematically represented), as I have seen twice in the last months, including in Bryan Talbot's book.

graphic novel: variously and confusingly used to indicate 1)all comic books, 2)a specific format of comic books, 3)indeed the physical object itself (as opposed to the work it contains), 4) what would in prose be a novel but illustrated as a comic, 5) a new form of pictorial literature. Since it is not much use for the purposes of communication, my feeling is that it's better to ditch the term altogether though of course it's much too late for that. However as an overview, I feel that posterity will come to see it as representative of a certain ambition to make something grand out of the elements of the strip cartoon. Its failure will be due to its inability to escape out of comic book culture. Will Eisner's personal story illustrates this struggle as a series of steps forward and backward. He 'coined the term' (don't argue in this small space) and pitched his first 'graphic novel' with a book publisher, his second was serialized in the Kitchen Spirit comic mag, which was a step back. When Kitchen went bust he landed at DC. Finally he went to some trouble to remove all his books from comic book publisher DC over to book publisher Norton, which was a step forward, even if it ultimately doesn't mean or achieve anything.

graphic other (eg graphic memoir etc): this seems to me like folk playing cards unaware that the boat has been taking on water for some time, but whatever, everybody to his own.

format : 1. the shape and size of a book as determined by the number of times the original sheet has been folded to form the leaves. Compare duodecimo, folio (def. 2), octavo, quarto. 2. the general physical appearance of a book, magazine, or newspaper, such as the typeface, binding, quality of paper, margins, etc.

'trade paperback' is an example of a format, being an oversized paperback that originated from the trade practice of putting a dummy cover around the innards of the hardcover to show customers what the upcoming paperback (which traditionally followed the hardcover) would look like. Anybody who says 'trade paperback' holds meaning other than oversized paperback (as I know many do) runs the risk of sounding like a complete twat.

form: Method of arrangement or manner of coordinating elements in literary or musical composition or in organized discourse: presented my ideas in outline form; a treatise in the form of a dialogue.
A particular type or example of such arrangement: The essay is a literary form. (as are novel, short story, etc.). (note that in literature the novel is a form but in illiterature the graphic novel is not a form but a format. I'm just pointing this out, as the Library Director should have done a few posts back, but I'm sure everybody has already taken it into account.)

illustration: a) any figurative art is often described as illustrative from the fine art point of view, even when the work does not relate to something outside of itself as in b . b) pictures drawn or painted to accompany text, whether fiction or non-fiction. Comic books can be described as an illustrated text. Even if there are no words.

authorial illustration: A concept of renewal and revitalisation in the field of illustration, in which the illustrator is applauded for creating his own projects. Edward Gorey, Ralph Steadman and Chris Ware among others are held up as successful examples (Note Ware's presence. I like this because it is one area is which so-called 'graphic novel' is perceived as a discipline outside and unrelated to comic book culture. Here it is seen as just another type of illustrated book.)

definition: precisely fixes limits and boundaries. it's usually about excluding something, throwing out the riffraff.

The lowbrow colonisation of culture: Seeing ourselves as so important that everything in history was just a preparation for our magnificence. Thus the Sistine chapel ceiling and the Bayeux tapestry are 'comics'. (not) (I had to add that before i get misrepresented by the guy who just read this at eighty miles an hour)

medium: there are several mediums mentioned above. If you say that I have suggested that we should call the medium this or that, which medium exactly? And don't presume I'm in the one you're talking about. Well, actually you can say what you like, but don't attribute it to me.


Tuesday, 13 November 2007

‘Why doesn’t somebody take this goddam thing away from me?”

Continuing the Thurber theme here at Campbell blogspot, I’ve been reading Burton Bernstein‘s 1975 biography of the great man. There’s alway that dreary part at the beginning of the ‘life’ where you have to wade knee deep through a swamp of forebears. I find with this book that I’m not doing my usual speedy dash through the first chapter but relishing every detail:

Aunt Kate’s benign conventionality marked her as the odd one in the family, for her myriad Matheny and Taylor relatives wee a cast of certifiables. As Thurber read the roster, there were, for example: “Aunt Lou, who wrote poetry and believed that everything was for the best; Aunt Melissa, who knew the bible by heart and was convinced that Man’s day was done… Aunt fanny, plagued in her old age by recurring dreams in which she gave birth to Indian, Mexican, Chinese, and African twins…” and one of Thurber’s favorite Ohio creatures- “Aunt Florence, who once tried to fix a broken cream separator on her farm near Sugar Grove and suddenly cried, ‘Why doesn’t somebody take this goddam thing away from me?” then, too, there were the likes of Aunt Clemmens, a loony mystic who smelled dire conspiracy in such disparate phenomena as the sinking of the Titanic and the invention of electricity, and perhaps the queerest of the lot, Aunt Mary Van York, a wisp of a woman who survived till ninety-three mainly on a diet of an estimated two hundred thousand pipefuls of vicious Star plug chewing tobacco.

I'm reminded of the song, Family Tree by Jake Thackray (seven verses with guitar tab):
Up my, my family tree
There hangs my curious pedigree,
My long, my lurid ancestry -
The prancing phantoms and ghosts
Of my rude forefathers.
Nevertheless, despite their sins,
Bless my kiths and bless my kins.
There they all perch to see
Up my, up my family tree.

Up my, my family tree,
No blue blood, no nobility;
No trace of aristocracy -
Except for Uncle Sebastian
Who once raped a duchess.
Nevertheless, despite their sins,
Bless my kiths and bless my kins.
There they perch for all to see
Up my, up my family tree.

whole website devoted to the late singer/songwriter

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Monday, 12 November 2007

My World

After many years of thinking about it, I have at last found access to dubs of one of my favourite tv shows of all time (thanks Gareth). These are not official and I can't point you in any direction. In fact the quality is somewhere close to looking at the picture through a woolly cardigan.
The title was called My World and Welcome to it. It was a half hour comedy series that ran for one season of 26 episodes over 1969-70, and then won an Emmy after it was cancelled. It starred William Windom as a cartoonist, John Monroe.

I bumped into the actor, now in his eighties, three(?) years back as we were both exiting the San Diego comic con. He was there I guess because he had a prominent role in an episode of Star Trek. He didn't really want to stop and chat until he realized I was raving and complimenting him on the best tv comedy of all time, which was really HIS show. He later took a one-man stage version of it on the road. It was based on the cartoons and stories of James Thurber, animated versions of whose drawings periodically intervene in the drama. The stage version (damn I wish I'd seen it, but I was sixteen and had no money for the run into London) used a lot of cut-out cartoons like the one of the dog in this promo photo for the tv series.

The opening sequence of each episode was usually a variation on the Thurber drawing of a house morphing into a woman:

I managed to find two different photographed tv screens on the net that show how it worked. The live action figure of Monroe (Windom) would be speaking a little monologue that would lead into the story as he arrived home from the office (he was the cartoonist at a new York magazine) and entered the house. The house would usually start talking and we'd segue into the conversation between Monroe and his wife:

I've just finished watching the sixth episode. Windom has drawn a cartoon of two hippos looking at each other . The caption reads 'You look much better since you lost the weight.' The editor doesn't get it. Which one's speaking? It doesn't matter. They're identical. One of them's got to be speaking. Okay, it's that one. Well it's mouth isn't open.
Windom resigns and storms out...

When is somebody going to put the series on DVD for god's sake!!!????


Sunday, 11 November 2007

Screen writers expected to be witty on their own dime!
Striking Writers Seek Creative Options - Foxnews- November 11.- By DAVID GERMAIN,

With thousands of wordsmiths picketing, you might expect a lot of clever slogans, signs and chants. The picket lines have been sober-minded and businesslike, though. Sawyer heard one striker yelling out to passing cars, "Honk if you love nuanced characters," but most chants have been commonplace patter such as "On strike, shut 'em down, Hollywood's a union town" or "Hey hey, ho ho, union-busting has to go."
Not all writers have their complete attention on striking. Besides jamming with his band, a group called Oliver Twist in which he plays guitar, Goldberg said he's funneling some creativity into scoping out a future wife on the picket lines.
Museum manager explains comic books and how to read them!
The world of the graphic novel: Comic books for grown-ups at the Rockwell- By Charles Bonenti- Berkshire Eagle- 11/09/2007
"It takes a certain level of focus to read them," said Mahoney, who has been a fan of the genre for years. "You have to figure how to move through the panels (of text blocks and images) and decide what to look at first."
Not all graphic novels are as dark or as serious. Some even have humor, though not, Mahoney cautioned, "humor in a ha, ha way."
That doesn't mean there aren't still bad graphic novels, said Mahoney, but like bad books of text, they tend not to survive.

(Wha!? Then why's the crap thriving all over the place!?)
I'm not intending to get into another semantic argument here, just observing the muddle in my usual manner, but notice in the above that he (the journalist) called it a 'genre', as opposed to the library director Jean Pelletiere a few days ago who said "I've just discovered that it's called a format, not a genre."
In fact I find 'format' much more problematic than 'genre', an inoffensive French word that has been made to suffer unnecessary indignities and which I can happily accommodate. However we should not be surprised to find that people mired in the lowbrow art of comic books are buggering our dear English language, or that library directors are not as bright as they used to be (we'll leave journalists out of this consideration as we have never expected much of them) and are apt to just say yes and go along with it all. And so I have noticed over the years the tendency of comic book culture to be incapable of separating 'format' and 'form'.
1. the shape and size of a book as determined by the number of times the original sheet has been folded to form the leaves. Compare duodecimo, folio (def. 2), octavo, quarto. 2. the general physical appearance of a book, magazine, or newspaper, such as the typeface, binding, quality of paper, margins, etc.
Method of arrangement or manner of coordinating elements in literary or musical composition or in organized discourse: presented my ideas in outline form; a treatise in the form of a dialogue.
A particular type or example of such arrangement: The essay is a literary form. (as are novel, short story, etc.)

Or to put it another way, form is the organisational principle and format is its physical presentation.

To say more would be argumentative.

Austin Kleon gives a more thorough look than mine at Otto Soglow and the Little King!!! With a good selection of the early new Yorker strips.well recommended.